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July 11th, 2014

Hardware_July07_CNow that we’ve looked into the differences between Mac and PC in terms of operating system, software and specifications, let's continue to dig deeper in determining the differences between the two rivals. It is vital that you look into all aspects before deciding which one you want to go for since you’ll likely be using it for many years. This includes models, availability, security, customer satisfaction, and of course price.

Models

Apple offers five computer lines comprising of the Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac and Mac Pro. This limited selection is not a sign of weakness but a part of the company’s 'less is more' approach to marketing.

PCs have a larger variety to choose from, with industry giants such as Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo, who offer numerous configurations of both desktop and laptop models. This can be beneficial in helping you find a specific computer that meets your needs.

Availability

When it comes to third party retail stores, Apple is more selective than PC manufacturers about where it sell its products. As of April 2014, Apple has 424 retail stores in 16 countries and an online store available in 39 countries. However, Macs are still not available at many stores that sell PCs.

PCs are the most numerous and popular computers out there, and can be found at every store that sells computers, except for Apple stores. This makes it easier to find PCs, especially if you don't live near an Apple store.

Security

With the vast majority of computers running on Windows, most attacks focus on PCs. Malware like Trojans, which trick users into installing the software by pretending to be a useful program, or botnets, are common to PCs, but rarely harm Macs.

This doesn’t mean that Macs are 100% secure. As Macs become more popular, threats are increasing. Nonetheless, a Mac user is still less likely to be a victim of successful attack than a PC user.

Customer satisfaction

Recent surveys conducted by PCWorld and PCMag revealed that personal users choose Mac over every single brand of PC available. Businesses on the other hand still prefer to stick with PCs.

While Apple does score high on many surveys, especially because of the value placed on face-to-face service, there are a number of PC manufacturers that offer a comparable service. Also, there are more smaller repair shops that offer unrivalled customer service.

Price

One of the most cited differences between a Mac and a PC is price. Generally speaking, Macs are more expensive than PCs due to their preference of building products around higher-end computers with more costly components. The cheapest Mac computer is the Macbook Air which starts from USD$899, while various models of PCs can be found at a much lower price.

Mac and PC both have strong and weak points. It’s best to try both and see which is the better tool for you and which will cover your business needs. If you are looking for a new system, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
July 10th, 2014

Security_July07_CA common issue many businesses face, regardless of their size, is that their computer systems and devices get progressively older and slower, unless they are constantly updated. This can frustrate some employees who may have up-to-date personal devices, so much so that they simply start to bring these devices into the office. The idea of BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is not all that new, but it is a growing concern and if it's not handled properly it can pose a security risk.

What should I do about BYOD?

The first reaction of many office managers and business owners, worried about security threats that could stem from BYOD, is to impose an outright ban of devices. While telling your staff they are not to use their devices for work may seem like a quick and easy solution, you can be 100% sure that there will be employees who ignore this policy and use their personal devices for work regardless.

This could put your business at a higher security risk if the rule is ignored, especially if you don't implement any security measures to protect your networks and data. In order to minimize the potential threats BYOD can expose your business to, we suggest you do the following:

1. Consider embracing BYOD

Instead of simply banning personal devices in the workplace take a step back and look to see if there are any benefits BYOD can offer. For example, if you operate on razor thin margins and have not replaced hardware in years, there is a good chance your employees will have better systems at hand. This could help you reduce your overall tech costs.

The same goes for phones for your employees. Why not offer to pay for the plan and allow employees to use their own devices? Of course, you are going to want to implement security measures and usage rules, but if this is easily achieved then it may help reduce your overall operating costs. Before you do implement a system like this however, we strongly recommend you read the rest of this article and follow the steps below.

2. Set up separate networks for employee devices

Oftentimes, the main reason employees bring their devices to the office and use them for work purposes, especially when it comes to mobile phones, is because they can happily connect to Wi-Fi for free without using their data plans throughout the day.

Chances are high that because they use the work Wi-Fi on their device for non-work tasks, they simply keep using the device when they are doing work related activities. This could pose a security risk, especially if you run business-critical operations on the same network. You could nip this potential problem in the bud and simply install another Wi-Fi network for mobile devices and non-critical business processes.

It is usually quite affordable to simply purchase another line and the networking equipment to support this, not to mention the fact that it will keep business-critical processes secure from errant malware. As an added bonus, you will likely see increased productivity because the bandwidth demand will be limited, so important data will move quicker.

3. Educate your staff about security

In our experience, the vast majority of BYOD related security risks are exposed by mistake. An employee may have a virus on a personal phone and be unaware of it. When they connect to the network it can then be unintentionally spread to other computers resulting in a potentially massive security breach.

One of the simplest ways to prevent this is to educate your employees about proper mobile safety. This includes how to spot apps that could contain malware, sharing security threat updates, and teaching your employees how to secure their devices. You really need to stress just how important security is to them.

On top of this, contact an IT expert like us for a recommended anti-virus and spyware scanner for mobile devices that users can easily install. Encourage employees to not just install this but to keep it up to date too. Many of these mobile specific scanners are free and just as powerful as desktop versions.

4. Work with an IT partner to establish a solution that works for you

Beyond education and simple network establishment, it is a great idea to work with an IT partner like us. As experts, we keep tabs on the trends and solutions related to BYOD and will work with you to establish a program that works for your company.

It may be that you don't actually need to integrate BYOD but to update hardware or software to newer versions instead. It could be that there is a simple solution to employees feeling frustrated with slow performance of existing systems at work.

If you do implement BYOD, we can help establish security measures and policies that will ensure your networks and employee devices are secure. The best advice we can give however, is to do this before you start allowing BYOD, as it can be far more challenging to implement and enforce changes when employees are already using their devices at work.

Looking to learn more? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 10th, 2014

BI_July07_CTake a step back and think about the data available to your business. Chances are it has grown exponentially, and will likely continue to do so into the future. While this can be useful as more data equals a better, clearer picture of what is going on in your business, there is still a large amount of data that is useless. In order to prevent you and your company from being overwhelmed, you should have a well defined data collection system in place.

What is well defined data collection?

Everyone collects data, even people who don't use computers. The key to being able to successfully leverage the data you have available to your business lies in a strong foundation - in this case, how you collect your data. With an appropriate system in pace you will know what data to collect and measure, and just how important it is. From here, you can more effectively analyze and interpret it, allowing you to make more informed decisions.

If you are looking to implement a new data collection system, or improve on how you currently collect it, here are six tips that can help:

1. Think about what customer interactions are important

Often the most important data you need is in relation to your customers. Your first step should be to define important customer interactions. For example, if you own an online store, you will likely want to know where your customers come from, the items they click on, items they add to their cart, and items they ultimately buy.

By first identifying important interactions to track, you can then look for metrics and data collection methods related to these interactions. This makes it easier for you to track the most important data.

2. Think about what behavior-related data is important

Don't just focus on those customers who have completed a purchase or followed through the whole business chain. Think about what behavior could produce data that is important to your organization.

To continue the online store example from above, this information could include how far down the page people scroll, how many pages deep they go when looking at product categories, how long they spend on a site, and where those who don't convert leave from.

Collecting and analyzing data like this can be a great determinant of what is working well and what needs to be improved upon.

3. Look at important metrics you use

Sometimes the way you collect your data will depend on how you plan to measure it. This includes the different metrics you use to define the success or failure of marketing plans, sales initiatives, and even how you track visitors.

Be sure to identify which ones your business currently uses, as these will often point you towards the relevant data you will need to collect.

4. Identify the data sources you are going to use

In many businesses there are redundancies with data collected. For example, a CMS (content management system) will often have some of the same data points as Web analytics, or a POS (Point of Sale) will have some of the same data points as an inventory system. Due to this, you are going to have to identify what systems will provide what data.

On the other hand, many businesses use data from multiple systems for one key metric. In order to ensure that you are collecting the right data, you will need to identify these sources and ensure that they are compatible with your data collecting system. If they aren't, you could face potential problems and even make wrong decisions based off of incomplete data, which could cost your business.

5. Keep in mind who will be viewing the reports

When implementing data collection systems and subsequent data analysis systems, you will likely start generating reports related to this data. It is therefore a good idea to identify who will be reading these reports and what the most important information they will need is.

This information will be different for each audience, so be sure to identify what data they judge to be important. For optimal results, you should think about who will be reading the data reports and what relevant data needs to be collected in order to generate them.

6. Set a reasonable frequency for collection and analysis

This can be a tough one to get right, especially if you work in an industry with high fluctuation or your business is in a constant state of change. Your best bet is to look at when you think you will be needing data. For example, if you are responsible to submit a monthly sales report it might be a good idea to collect data on at least a bi-weekly basis in order to have enough to develop a report at the end of the month.

You should also look at who will be getting the reports and how long different campaigns or business deals will be in place. The frequency will vary for each business, so pick one that works best for your systems and business.

If you are looking to implement a data collection system, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 9th, 2014

OSX_July07_CApple's iCloud has been met, by Apple users at least, with great enthusiasm. This important cloud storage solution has many great strengths. However, one common issue, pointed out by many business users, is that it doesn't feel secure. In an effort to beef up the security of iCloud, Apple has recently introduced two-step authentication.

What exactly is two-step authentication?

Two-factor or two-step authentication as Apple calls it, is a security method whereby you need to supply two different pieces of information in order to access your account. For the majority of systems this means your password and another piece of identification or a code that has been sent to say a mobile phone or generated by a key fob.

The reason two-step authentication has become so popular, and is being implemented in numerous systems, is that it is more secure than just using your password to access your account. Because the majority of platforms choose to use your mobile phone to generate the second code - usually through an SMS - there is a good chance that other people will not be able to access your account.

In the specific case of iCloud, you will need to enter this code when accessing iCloud or iCloud Web apps like Calendar, Contacts, Mail or Notes. When you try to access an app on a new system you will need to enter your password and a four digit code sent to your mobile phone over SMS.

How to set up two-step authentication for iCloud

If you use iCloud or iCloud's Web apps you can enable two-step authentication by following these steps:
  1. Going to the iCloud website and logging in using the username and password you would like to enable the extra authentication for.
  2. Clicking on your account name, which is located at the top-right of the page, and selecting Account Settings.
  3. Clicking on your Apple ID followed by Manage your Apple ID in the new page that opens.
  4. Signing in with your Apple ID again and clicking on Password and Security.
  5. Entering the answer to two of your security questions and then selecting Continue.
  6. Reading the information about two-step authentication on the three following screens and clicking Get started.
  7. Setting a phone number in the following screen. Be sure to use a number tied to a phone that can accept SMS or text messages.
  8. Entering the code that was sent to the phone number you set in the previous step.
  9. Selecting your phone from the list of devices and clicking Verify.
  10. Entering the code that is sent to the device you just selected and clicking Continue.
  11. Printing or copying the verification key in the window that pops up. You will need to keep this in order to access your account if you switch phone numbers.
  12. Re-entering the verification key and clicking Enable two-step verification.
  13. Checking the box to show that you acknowledge the two-step verification and understand what it means.
  14. Clicking Done.
The next time you try to log into iCloud, you should be asked to enter the two-step verification code that will be sent to the mobile device you established in the steps above. It's true that this is a bit of a hassle to set up, but it really does enhance the security of your account and should be enabled, especially if you have connected a credit card or uploaded sensitive information to your account.

If you are looking to learn more about enhancing the security of your Mac laptop or desktop, contact us today to see how our systems can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
July 9th, 2014

Web_July07_CIf you are like many other business owners or managers there is a good chance you have a clean and organized file and folder system on your computer. This is great, but what about your mobile device? It can be hard to keep your files and folders organized on mobile devices, especially on a Windows Phone. This is actually one of the biggest pieces of feedback from users about the operating system. In an effort to make it easier to manage files and folders on your Windows Phone, Microsoft has just released a new app.

About the Files app for Windows Phone 8.1

In late May, Microsoft posted an article on their Windows Mobile blog announcing that the Files app had been launched. The idea behind this app is that it allows easier viewing and managing of files and folders on your Windows Phone.

With this app you can:

  • Browse for installed files
  • Arrange files into folders
  • Move files or folders from one location to another
  • Open or search for files
  • Change the name of existing files
  • Share individual or multiple files with other users
While this app is a welcome development, there is one feature that makes it great: It allows you to also access and manage files on your device's SD card - if it has one. This means you no longer have to connect your Windows Phone to your computer in order to manage your files. You can do so directly from your phone.

Where can I get the app?

If you use your device for work we strongly recommend that you install this app, especially if you store files on your device. Find the app on the Windows Phone Store for free. Simply click the Install button in the left-hand ribbon of the page and select your device. You need to be signed into the Microsoft account you use on your phone. You can verify this by looking at the top-right of the page and hovering your mouse over Explore. If you are not signed in hover over Explore and click Sign-in. Enter the username and password of the Microsoft account you use on your phone and you should be able to install the app directly from your browser.

Alternatively, you can install the app directly to your device by:

  1. Going to the Windows Phone Store app on your device.
  2. Searching for Files.
  3. Tapping on the Files app icon (blue square with a white document icon).
  4. Pressing Install.
The app should start to download automatically and install a new tile on your home screen.

Using the Files app

To manage or view the files and folders on your device, simply open the app. You should see a screen open with the option to either look at the files on your Phone or SD card - if your device has an SD card installed.

When you tap on either Phone or SD card, you should see the file structure pop up. Scrolling up or down and tapping on files or folders will open them. If you tap on the square box beside each file you will see a number of options pop up at the bottom of the screen. Pressing the related icon will allow you to interact with that file. For example, if you select a file and press the Trash Can icon, the file will be deleted. You can select multiple files at the same time by simply tapping on the white boxes before hitting any of the action buttons.

If you are looking for a specific file, make sure you don't have any files or folders selected and press the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the screen. Enter the name of the file or folder you would like to find and it should pop up below the search bar.

Looking to learn more about using Windows Phone in the office? Contact us today to see how our services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 8th, 2014

GoogleApps_July07_CTech giants like Google are constantly working on what seems like a million projects and ideas at any given time. One way they get these developments out to the public is to announce them at a big event. Google usually showcases some major products or devices at their annual developer conference, I/O. This year, I/O was held in late June and true to form the company talked about a bunch of concepts businesses can benefit from.

During I/O, Google announced a ton of new products and features, while also holding seminars and sessions all related to developing programs and solutions using Google's various programs and devices. The most popular event however is the keynote, where the company provides a high-level glance at the most exciting developments to come in the next year or so. Here is a brief overview of the five most business-relevant announcements.

Android L

Overall, Android has grown immensely over the past five or so years. It's now the world's most popular mobile operating system and there are a wide range of businesses using Android devices. On an almost yearly basis, Google has announced a new version of Android, but over the past few years there hasn't really been a major overhaul to the system. Google aims to change that this year with Android L.

The next version of Android will feature a redesigned User Interface that is not only more modern but also smarter and more colorful. Using a new layout system, called material design, Android L aims to provide a consistent look across all apps and devices. For example, the Gmail app will look the same on a tablet as it does on your phone.

Aside from a new look and interface, there are also a number of features introduced with Android L, including:

  • A new way to display notifications - These will also be displayed on your locked screen.
  • Increased dependence between apps - Google is aiming to make it so that apps work better together. The example showcased at the conference displayed a Google search for a restaurant using Chrome, and a search result allowing you to book a table directly from another app, without having to close Chrome and open the table booking app.
  • Faster operation - Google has developed a new way to put the OS together, which will allow apps to run faster, smoother, and more efficiently on the same hardware.
  • Better battery life - A new mobile project Google is working on, called project Volta, will allow app developers to track and easily see where their app is using increased battery power. This can then be investigated and changes implemented wherever possible to limit this energy drain. This will help ensure better battery life overall. There will also be a new power saving mode, allowing users to lengthen battery life by up to 90 minutes when their device's battery is low.
There are also likely to be a slew of new and improved features introduced when Android L is released which, according to Google, should be sometime in the fall - likely late September or October.

Android Wear

The company noted that they were going to get into the smartwatch game earlier this year, and at I/O they introduced a number of new smartwatches and an Android Wear app you install on your phone that gives these watches functionality. Think of these watches as an extension of your phone; showing relevant information and notifications. In other words, they are really kind of like Google Now on your wrist.

In the demo we saw, your watch will show upcoming events and information related to your location. So, for example, if you have a flight in three hours, you will be able to access your flight information, boarding pass, and even receive updates about the status on your watch, without having to look at your phone.

It can also function as your notification center. You can set your phone to buzz when you receive a new email and read it without looking at your phone. You can even interact with it using your voice. For example, you can dictate emails or even Internet searches.

There are currently two watches available to order, with a third coming later this summer. Because these devices are new, it's not easy to tell whether they will be useful for all business users. However, if you spend a lot of time on the road or out of the office, this could prove to be a good way of keeping track of your day and important notifications.

Android Auto

Governments around the world are increasingly implementing tough laws regarding the use of mobile phones whilst driving. While safety is paramount, the restrictions can be tough for those who spend a lot of time traveling with work.

In an effort to make things safer, Google has introduced Android Auto. This system is designed to be integrated into new cars and connect to your phone. With Android Auto you will be able to access your phone's music, notifications, contacts, and messages while on the road. The idea is that these will show up on your car's navigation screen and can be interacted with via steering wheel controls or your voice.

In the demo shown at I/O, the driver received a text message which was read to him aloud, and he then responded using his voice. He was also able to set reminders, play music and find directions - all without picking up his phone.

Generally speaking, when this system starts to show up in cars later this year, it should allow you to interact with your phone while still focusing on driving and not breaking any distracted driving laws of course.

New features for Drive

I/O wasn't all about Android however, Google also talked about a slew of new features and an overhaul to their popular cloud storage and collaboration platform, Google Drive. In the new version, the overall platform is quicker. You will be able to see file information at the click of a button, and open new files by double clicking on them. You can also select multiple files, just as you do on your computer, and easily add these to one folder or action the files as a group.

Possibly the biggest, and most useful, feature in the new version of Drive. This version will bring enhanced editing options, which are available in the three main collaboration apps - Slides, Sheets and Docs. In the new version, you should see a pencil icon in the menu bar above the document. Click on this to access the new editing options. For example, Suggesting will allow you to edit the doc, but instead of the edits being made, they will show up as comments that need to be approved to implement the suggested change.

With the update, a common issue with Drive was also fixed: The ability to add and edit Microsoft Office documents. Now, Google says, you will be able to add Office files and edit them directly from Drive, without having to convert them to their Google equivalent. These features should be available now in Google Drive, or will be within the next month or two, so be on the lookout.

A premium option for Google Apps

Finally, at the I/O keynote, Google talked about a new version of Google Apps they like to call Google Drive for Work. This package, aimed at getting businesses to move over to the paid version of Google Apps, is a premium version of the basic version of Google Apps.

For USD 10 a month, users get unlimited cloud storage, enhanced audit reporting and security controls. For companies with less than five users however, the storage amount is set to 1TB per user. If your business is seeing an increase in the amount of data you need to store, this new premium account could be right up your alley.

Looking to learn more about the products and updates announced by Google? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 4th, 2014

BusinessValue_June30_CIn part one of our two part article on increasing the shareability of blog content you create, published last month, we revealed five tips. From creating longer content, to playing on specific emotions, and including images, we highlighted ways in which you can potentially increase the shareability of your content. In this article, we take a look at five more tips.

6. Lists of 10 items are great

One of the most popular forms of blog article written these days is the list article. These articles usually cover three to more than 20 items or tips related to one central topic. Articles of this type are popular because they are not only quick to write, but are also quick to digest as they can be broken up into easy-to-read sections - perfect for those who scan articles on their mobile devices.

With so many lists out there, it can be tricky to nail just how long your list of tips, ideas, etc. should be. From social data pulled by social media experts over at BuzzSumo, it appears that articles with 10 list items get the most shares. It is therefore a good idea to strive to reach 10 points when creating this style of list article.

Some articles however can get quite lengthy, even with 10 items. One strategy might be to separate the list, like we have with this article. Of course, shorter lists can work well too, especially if these include powerful tips. We suggest trying to aim for 5-10 items when you are writing your list articles.

7. People share what they trust

This has been an age-old truth: people go with companies they trust. It has been proven time and again that users will often follow what their friends and people they trust recommend. What this translates to when it comes to the shareability of your articles is that the source of the content needs to be trustworthy.

This can be difficult to establish, especially if you are a new business or new to social media, One of the best ways to achieve this is to include bylines and author bios on your articles. Putting the name of the author (byline) at the top of an article and a brief bio at the bottom will help increase the legitimacy of the article in the eyes of the reader, increasing their trust levels over time,

Another quick way to increase legitimacy is to share an article on specific social networks. Your first thought is likely to be to share away on Facebook, but think about how Facebook is used - people generally share everything, even if it's not trustworthy. Instead, look to the more professional networks like LinkedIn and Google+. Generally, people on these platforms build more professionally oriented networks, often built on trust.

By sharing an article with a byline and bio with your groups in LinkedIn you can quickly build trust, especially if you are active within your network. Once people start to trust your content, there is a higher chance they will read it and consequently share it too.

8. What's old can be new

Have you ever followed a post on Facebook, or any other social media? If you have, you likely know how short of a lifespan content has - when it comes to shares at least. Almost all content posted on social media sites has a lifespan of about three days to a week at most. What do we mean by this? Well, normally after three days you will see the number of interactions - shares, likes, etc - drop by as much as 98%. Go beyond three days and you will usually see another huge drop in the number of shares from the three day mark.

Essentially after three days to a week, your content will likely not be shared or even seen. Most of us know this, and are often quick enough to produce more content and posts in order to keep followers engaged. However, some content can actually be re-shared to keep up or to further interest.

Not all content - articles included - can, or should, be reposted, such as time relevant content like an announcement. Reposting these three weeks after the fact likely does not provide any value to the reader. Content that is written to be always viable however e.g., tip articles, how-tos, etc. are great potential content for resharing.

Some information never really gets old and can be useful to a new audience. Resharing previously posted content like this ensures more people will see and interact with it. For best results, try promoting an article you think was useful about one week after you first posted. Also, be sure to look at season or holiday relevant content - there is a good chance this can be reposted at the relevant time.

9. Know when to share your content

Often, the most important key to increasing the shareability of your content is actually posting it when your desired audience is online. By posting at, or just before, these key times, you increase the chance of the content being seen and interacted with. While there is no set timeframe, you can figure out when best to post through trial and error.

Before you start however, look at your previous content and see when it was interacted with most. Take a look at the days and times, and track this for a few weeks. You should start to see a trend emerge, with the most interactions happening at a certain time and date. Also, apply a little common knowledge. For example, if your target audience is other business owners or managers, posting midday will likely mean content will be missed. However, posting after normal business hours could improve your chances.

From here, try posting content at different times to see what works, and adjust your schedule accordingly.

10. Realize this will all take time

When looking to improve the reach of your content, you need to realize this will take time. Even if you follow these tips, you won't see immediate results. Chances are high this will take months to pay dividends. The key here is to stick with it and to experiment. Try a few different strategies at a time to see what works and doesn't, then go back to the drawing board and improve your plans.

If you are looking to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, we may be able to help. Contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 3rd, 2014

AndroidTablet_June30_CAndroid, Google's mobile operating system, is one of the most popular mobile systems out there. Each year, at Google's annual I/O conference, it is expected that the company introduces the next version of Android, and at this year's conference held on June 25 and 26, the company didn't disappoint, announcing a new version of Android that will bring about some big changes.

Coming soon: A new version of Android

It's true that you can pretty much guarantee a new version of Android to be announced at I/O. This year, Google was true to form and spent the better part of the whole keynote speech talking about the upcoming changes expected with the next version of Android - Android L. Why Android L? Well, the latest version of Android to date is 4.4, codenamed: KitKat. It makes sense that the next big release of Android will start with the letter L. At this time however, it has not been assigned a dessert related name like the other versions of Android because it is still in development.

Names aside, there were a number of interesting changes talked about by the Google staff. Here are five that business users of Android devices will be interested to know about.

1. Material design - A drastic change to the UI

Practically one of the first things talked about, regarding Android L at least, was a newly designed UI or User Interface. In fact, when released, this will be the biggest change to the look of Android since the Ice Cream Sandwich update in 2011. Powering this change will be a new look Google calls material design.

Material design creates a drastically different look from existing versions of Android. This will bring a flatter design with lots of rounded elements and softer edges that will extend to all versions of Android - tablets, phones, Chromebooks, and even Google's apps themselves. From this, it appears that Google wants to extend Android to other devices and it will do so by implementing a card-based design. These cards will play a front-and-center role with Android L, and according to Google they will be able to scale to meet screen size and dimensions. This means that one app will be able to work on different devices, without the need for a specific tablet, or phone version.

From the demo of material design that Google played, the new UI looks great. It looks clean, modern, and more colorful than ever before. If you are wondering what this design will look like when it comes to apps, take a look at the latest version of the Google+ app for Android, it has already been switched over to reflect the upcoming new style from Google. Or, check out this YouTube video from Google that highlights what the material design UI will look like.

The company also showcased a number of new changes to the UI that will make Android even easier to use. One of the biggest was how the apps interacted. Using the new version, the presenter searched for a restaurant and one of the search results was to an app installed on the phone. Tapping on it opened the app, without you having to close the results, to be able to then search for the restaurant. Overall, this will be a big change in the way Android looks and interacts with other apps.

2. Improved notifications

While a drastic change to the UI is pretty big news, Google wasn't content to just redesign the look of Android. They also showcased an improved notifications function. In current versions of Android, you need to unlock your device and swipe down from the top of the screen to view your notifications which are displayed in chronological order.

In Android L, your notifications will be viewable, and actionable from your locked screen. For example, if you get a new SMS, you can read it directly from your phone's screen, without having to unlock the device and open the relevant app or notifications center.

The other big change will be to how your notifications are displayed. Google is going to take a different approach to this and instead of showing these chronologically, it will display notifications sorted by relevance and importance.

Finally, Google will fix one of the biggest annoyances with Android - if you are working in an app, say giving a presentation, and you receive a call your device will no longer close the presentation and open the phone dialer. Instead, it will show what Google calls a 'Heads Up Notification'. This is a small notice displayed on top of the app that you currently have opened. In the example shown, a game was being played when someone called. Instead of the game closing, you saw the call info hover on top of the app. You could answer, hang up or even send a quick auto-reply SMS (e.g., I am busy, will call you back later) without the current app being closed.

3. Trusted environments

Having a screen lock on your device, such as a pattern or number lock, is essential for all users. This is one of the best ways to ensure that others can't physically access your device and the data within. While screen locks are a security must, there are times when they are more of an inconvenience than anything.

Take for example during a presentation. If you are using your Android device to show a slideshow, and pause for a time on one slide, long enough for your phone's screen to switch off, it is a hassle to unlock the screen and reopen the app.

Google's fix for this is a feature which establishes a trusted environment or device e.g., an Android smartwatch or your Office Wi-Fi. When you are in range of the watch, or the Wi-Fi connection, your device will automatically be unlocked and accessible without having to enter your PIN or code.

Move out of range however, and your device will lock, requiring the PIN or swipe code to unlock. This could be a useful feature for many businesses, especially those who use Android devices on a regular basis.

4. Deeper ties with Chrome and the Web

Many Android users utilize the recent app button on a regular basis. With one tap of the button, usually located on the bottom right of your device, or by pressing the home button, you can open previous apps. With the introduction of Android L, this will also show tabs that you have open in Chrome. This could be useful, especially if you use Chrome on your desktop and want to quickly access the same page on your device.

5. Business oriented APIs

The API, or application programming interface, is an essential part of the mobile device. It is the API that specifies how different apps should work together. With Android L, Google will include some business oriented APIs, with the most important being a set that allows both personal and business data to exist on the same device, without being mixed. In other words, you will be able to use a personal device for work, likely without mixing accounts, something which the BYOD crowd should find incredibly useful.

When can we expect Android L to arrive?

As of the writing of this article, there is no set release date for Android L. During the keynote numerous mentions were made of it being released sometime in the fall. Bear in mind that this is for Nexus, Google Play, and likely new devices released just after Android L. When, or if, it will be made available for other users is unknown, but likely won't be until early next year.

In the meantime, keep reading our blog for updates. And, if you have any questions regarding Android in your business please give us a shout today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 3rd, 2014

AndroidPhone_June30_CAndroid devices are one of the most popular business tools, largely because of the increasing number of business oriented apps being released. Earlier this year, Google released standalone versions of their office productivity apps, but one - Slides - was missing. Google said they would release it at a later date, and this June they did exactly that.

What exactly is the Google Slides app? I thought it was part of Google Drive...

As many who use Google Apps know, productivity apps like Slides, Docs, and Sheets are part of Google's cloud storage app - Drive. If you have used the Drive app on your phone or tablet, you likely also know that you can create, edit, and share documents via this app.

This development is an effort to extend the capabilities of Drive, while simultaneously making it easier for users to access their individual files. For example, if you are a heavy user of Slides it can be a little annoying and time consuming to open the Drive app, search for the file you want, open it, and start editing. Now, if you have the app installed you can open it for immediate access to your related files, in this case Slides.

The key here is to think of the Slides app as a branch of the Google Drive App, as all of your files are still linked to Drive. Create a presentation using the Slides app and it will show up automatically on Google Drive as well as in the app. This app has all the same features as the Drive version, it is just that the app has been specifically written for mobile devices and designed for ease of use.

What can I do with this app?

As we stated above, the main focus of the Slides app is to allow you to create and edit presentations from your Android device. As such, there are a number of useful features:
  • The ability to create and edit presentations offline. As long as you have accessed a Slides presentation while online, it will be made available for you to open and edit offline as well. You can also save individual presentations to your device's hard drive and have the file updated when the presentation is.
  • Advanced sharing features. You are able to share your presentation from a mobile device and have users on their devices or computers collaborate on the same file.
  • Automatic saving of presentations created and edited on the Web. As long as you have an Internet connection, changes made to files via the app will be synced with Google Drive and reflect on all versions of the presentation. If you are offline, the changes will sync when you are next online.
  • The ability to open, edit, and save Microsoft PowerPoint presentations directly from the app. This is a big feature, largely due to the fact that many businesses use PowerPoint instead of Slides. What this means for you is that you can view these files without PowerPoint installed on your device.
  • Full editing capabilities. You are able to create slides, add text, edit slide order and the overall format of your text and slides.
  • Present directly from your device. You can run presentations on your device or connect to a projector using adapters that can usually be purchased for your device.

Where can I find the Slides app?

This app is available now on Google Play. To install it you can:
  1. Open the Google Play app on your device.
  2. Press the magnifying glass and type in Google Slides.
  3. Tap on the app and select Install.
  4. Open the app when it has been installed.
When you open the app, you should see all of your slides related to your Google account pop up in the app.

If you are looking to learn more about Google's apps on your Android device contact us today to see how we can help ensure that you get the apps your business needs most.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 2nd, 2014

SocialMedia_June30_CFor many businesses, social media is becoming not only relevant but an important element of overall operations. For business owners, managers, and employees one of the most valuable networks is the business oriented LinkedIn. This network encourages business friendly activities like networking and idea sharing, and is seeing ongoing growth as more business owners and managers continue to join. Like all networks, your profile is key to your success and the question then is how to go about creating a great profile.

In this article we will go over eight important steps you need to take in order to build the perfect LinkedIn profile. In fact, we came across a great infographic on Link Humans that could be a big help when following these steps. We strongly suggest you take a look at this when building your profile.

Step 1: Establish your profile

While you don't have to join LinkedIn, it is a good idea if you are looking to connect with other business owners and colleagues through a more professional, business style networking oriented social network. If you do want to connect at this level, the absolute first thing you need to do is to create a profile. This can be done by:
  1. Going to LinkedIn's website (linkedin.com).
  2. Clicking on Join Today.
  3. Entering the relevant information on the following page. We recommend using the name the majority of your customers and clients know you by and your work email address. Personal email addresses are fine if you don't want to fully represent your company.
  4. Selecting Join LinkedIn.
If you use your Facebook account for business, you can also sign up using your Facebook account. Just follow steps 1. and 2. above and click Sign Up with Facebook. You will be asked to log into your account (if don't already have Facebook open in another tab on your browser) then approve the account access rights. Once you've done this you should see your basic profile pop up.

Step 2: Select an appropriate picture

LinkedIn is a work-related network, and to that end you will need to present the right corporate image; this means uploading a professional profile photo. This image should clearly show your face and be cropped to show mainly your head and upper body. The background should be clear or unobtrusive, allowing you to be the main focus.

If you don't have any professional head shots, it might be a good idea to get some taken. Most photographers can snap a few for you, and will be able to provide you with information about how to pose and dress for the shots.

You can add an image to your profile by:

  1. Logging into your profile.
  2. Hovering over Profile which is located in the menu bar at the top of the screen.
  3. Clicking on Edit Profile followed by the camera icon at the top of your profile.
  4. Pressing Change photo and then selecting the image you would like to use as your profile picture from a file on your hard drive.
  5. Ticking Save to set your picture.
The reason a good picture is more important than on other networks is because it has been proven that profiles with professional looking pictures are easier to find and also enhance the potential that other members will want to connect or even recognize you.

Step 3: Fill in your basic information

Once you have a great picture set on your profile go back to the editing screen and add your basic information. This includes your name, role, location, and company. Also, click on the Edit Contact Info tab to the right-hand side of your basic information section. Add as much contact info as you feel comfortable with; we recommend your email address and company website at the very least.

Step 4: Determine who your main audience will be

Before you begin to fill in your profile, you should take time to determine what the purpose of this profile will be. Will it be used to find new colleagues? Or will it be used to connect and communicate with your colleagues? Or, will it used to find prospective clients? Each reason will determine what information you should include in your profile along with the relevant keywords.

For example, if you would like to find new employees you can tailor your profile to show what you do in your job and what makes it so great. You can then also come up with more relevant keywords to use in your content. For example, using the words 'career' and 'job' and including in your summary information about who you are looking for will definitely attract prospective hires. However, this profile likely won't attract colleagues or clients.

Don't feel that you have to limit yourself to one set function however. For example, there are many crossover terms that both clients and prospective employees will search for. So, if you want to use your LinkedIn profile for more than one reason, take some extra time and try to figure out which keywords and ideas you think will work well. The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can always edit everything at any time. So, if you want to switch your audience, you can easily do so by simply editing parts of your profile and changing keywords.

Step 5: Write a solid summary

The summary of your LinkedIn profile is a place where you highlight who you are. Take time to craft this so that you can showcase what you do and your main strengths. Be sure to use relevant industry and position specific keywords and terminology that you believe your audience will be searching for, as this language will make your profile easier to find in searches.

The key here is to write a summary that not only explains what you do and your experience, but showcases who you are. Use active language like 'I', 'my', and 'me', and be sure to include a way for people who don't have a LinkedIn profile to contact you - usually an email, link to your website or a phone number.

Step 6: Add your past and present positions

Once your summary is finished, you should move onto your current and past positions. This section should reflect your resume and highlight the experience you are talking about in your summary. It would be helpful to try and work in some of the keywords you used in the summary or identified earlier in order to really make your experience really stand out.

Chances are you aren't looking for work, so you can deviate a little from your resume here, and highlight what you do best, or how you can help your audience best. Feel free to leave out points that may not be 100% relevant or interesting e.g., how many people you manage, sales goals, etc.

Step 7: Start connecting

Once your profile is mostly complete with experience and a summary, you can start looking for people to connect with. Start by searching for people that you know or work with on a regular basis and inviting them to connect.

Next, join a few groups that are related to your position and industry. These can be found by hovering your mouse over Interests which is located in the menu bar near the top of the window. Select Groups from the menu that drops down and then select Find a group from the right-hand side of the page that opens. Some groups are private and will require you to ask to join them, but don't be afraid of sending in your request.

Once you have joined some groups and started to make connections be sure to be active on the network. It will help to join in on conversations held in your groups and post content on a regular basis. And, if you meet new clients or people don't be afraid of looking them up on LinkedIn and asking to connect with them!

Step 8: Work on your awards and recommendations

Finally, start recommending people that you know. You can do this by going to a colleague's profile and scrolling down to their Skills and Endorsements section. Find skills that you know they possess and press the + Endorse button beside the skill. Most people will also do this for you as well.

If you have won awards in the past, be sure to include these as well, especially if they are relevant to your intended audience. Just be sure to pick the awards that really highlight your skills, as an Employee of the Month award may not be the most relevant.

From here it's really just a matter of tinkering with your profile on a regular basis. Be sure to be active and ensure that your profile really reflects who you are. Doing this will create a stand-up profile you can be proud of.

Looking to learn more about LinkedIn and how to use it for your business? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media